When you’re just starting out as a new fantasy author, publishing can seem like approaching a dark pit guarded by monsters. The harder you try the bigger the monsters become. As an author and small publisher I get approached regularly for help. Here’s a real email that might represent your state of mind:
My name is Jessie and I have completed and edited my first fantasy manuscript. Well, the manuscript was edited by someone else. I also had someone proof read it and they found two spelling errors in the entire ms.
What I would like to know is do you assist story tellers in publishing their manuscripts? Do you offer helpful advice and contacts? Clearly being a first time writer I would need assistance in this here new waters. I have read what you have to say on your web page and quite honestly it scares me into a coma. It has taken me a long time to search the murky depths of my eccentric little soul to find what it is I want to do for the rest of my days and I can honestly say that story telling is it.
I believe my manuscript is good enough to be read by others and I cannot wait to get book 2, in the planned trilogy, finished. What would your advice be and who would you recommend I send my manuscript to? As you do admit that publishing fantasy novels is kind of difficult!
I know exactly how you feel, but sorry, there’s no easy road in.
I don’t provide mentoring or publishing support because I can’t afford to. What’s on my author website on How to find a fantasy publisher is the best overview I can offer. With the state of play right now, I’d say you need to get your hands dirty and consider the ‘free digital attack’ method for new authors.
THE FREE DIGITAL ATTACK
- After writing your book, write a 25,000 word standalone PREQUEL that will get people hooked on the world/idea/main character. Think of it as a written book trailer. Edit it, check it, polish it. Pay a book designer to make a cover image.
- Put it on Amazon Kindle for $0.99 and on Smashwords for FREE (yes, $0.00). That should pull the Amazon price down below its minimum to $0.00 (it price matches).
- Put the main manuscript (with a similar but different cover image) on Kindle and Smashwords for $0.99 for a few weeks.
- Google for review blogs and get some reviews. Join Goodreads as an author. Actively promote your work (there are many blogs with advice for self-publishing/promotion). That’s your market research. If the freebie+book don’t get lots of downloads, the concept you’re labouring over is unpopular. So stop right there and work on ANOTHER fantasy book, a different world, or your writing itself. I’m trying to save you from a long time of working on the wrong series, or wasting time chasing the 1 in a million publishing contract. You first need to really know what kind of fantasy thousands of people are interested in reading now.
- Rinse and repeat. Having many titles helps your digital sales. If any title hits the bestseller lists (Top 20 in Fantasy, say) then price it at $2.99-$5.99 (at 70% royalty) and finally you can begin making a little money, and more importantly, you raise the expectations of quality. But first it must be discovered by enough people to be well-ranked and reviewed. Hence the free digital attack.
If you can’t face doing all that yourself, you’ll need to find a small publisher who will. Go very slowly and carefully through the web, considering only publishers who encourage submissions and list authors who vouch for their publisher, because in this space be dragons. I don’t know who to recommend as I don’t use any of them. But they do exist.
If you get 20,000 Kindle sales or so for any one title, you can pitch the manuscript to the list of fantasy agents I have on my site. Big publishers are your only real chance at getting a printed fantasy book successfully into the market. Digital sales won’t jeopardise your chance of a contract. They are hard proof of demand.
That’s a basic game plan with the state of the market today. Of course there are variations, and new methods that develop all the time (it’s digital, it moves fast). There are thousands of authors doing this. It will take time to build awareness of your writing, but great writing will rise to the top. The good news for us is that digital reading is exploding, so there are more readers looking for ebooks.
As authors we’re all in this together.